The plant and garden industry is fertile soil at the moment, with households big and small looking to cultivate collections. Here, three Australian businesses discuss how they are tapping into the indoor-plant trend. The Jungle Collective Linda Vydra, co-owner The Jungle Collective. Image supplied Inside Retail: Tell me about The Jungle Collective – how did the business start and how has it grown over the years? Linda Vydra: Josh (The Jungle Collective co-owner Joshua O’Meara] was
O’Meara] was struggling to recover from a series of concussions. At that time, he had a fairly substantial collection of rare plants and, having essentially not worked for three months, I suggested throwing a plant sale. In 2017, we had our first sale at our warehouse in Abbotsford, which had 100 metre queues forming in both directions. We ran out of plants after 90 minutes, realised we were on to a good thing, and The Jungle was born. Six months later, we decided to launch a plant sale in Sydney. We didn’t have a venue locked in but we launched the event and it took off like a cat on a hot tin roof. We moved into a permanent space in St Peters and, to celebrate, we launched the Rare Plant Corner, which has become a key part of the business. The business continued to grow across the country. In Canberra, we got the biggest warehouse we’d ever had and we had about 7,500 guests over the weekend. Next was our first suburban sale, in Mentone in Melbourne, which is where we grew up. it became our biggest Melbourne sale. The business has continued to grow and evolve from there. IR: Can you discuss the mental and physical health benefits of owning and cultivating plants? LV: Plants were a big part of Josh’s recovery, as they gave him something to do and care for. Houseplants serve a practical and aesthetic purpose, and they enhance life. Indoor plants are great for health, not just for their beauty. Basically, they do the opposite of what we do when we breathe – release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide. This not only freshens the air but also removes harmful toxins. Studies have proven that houseplants improve focus and productivity. They help reduce stress levels and improve your mood, making them perfect for your home but also for your workspace. IR: Are most of your customers Millennials or renters living in apartments? LV: We cater for both demographics and have a mixture of customers who own their home and rent. Creating a jungle in your home is an easy way to make your home personal and relaxing. The best part is if you are renting you can take your plants with you. I think people are quite disconnected from nature, and indoor plants are something we are really craving. IR: How popular was the business amid Covid-19 restrictions? How did the business transform during this period, and has that popularity continued this year? LV: When Covid-19 hit, Josh turned to the healing and calming influence of indoor plants. We realised what we were in for, so rather than closing, like most event-based businesses did, we knuckled down working around the clock and building an online shop in two weeks, and we didn’t delay or cancel a single event. To our surprise, we went from stressing about our survival to record sales. The next challenge was scaling up our customer service and dispatch facilities. Since we have gone online, we have processed over 50,000 deliveries. We have now moved to a permanent e-commerce store that is gaining momentum each week to become Australia’s largest online indoor plant store. IR: Do you think people are getting better at looking after plants? Is education improving in this space? LV: Yes, 100 per cent. There is so much information out there and a lot of people rely on plant groups and talk to their peers. We offer support to our customers and people who have a question on our Facebook chat. We often get enquiries from the US and Europe. We also have a blog called The Jungle Book, with hundreds of care posts about specific plant species. IR: What are Jungle Collective’s plans for the future? LV: We plan on expanding quite heavily into outdoors. Watch this space! The Good Plant Co. The Good Plant Co. Image supplied Alecia Savage, business manager Inside Retail: Can you discuss the story behind The Good Plant Co. How did the business start, and how has it evolved over the years? Alecia Savage: The owners of the business have been in the nursery and landscaping business more than 10 years and as we saw the demand for indoor plants increase, we noticed that not everyone had a car to go to a nursery or garden centre and bring a plant (or plants) home with them. We are obsessed with indoor plants and wanted to be able to give as many people as possible the opportunity to have them in their homes or offices. Our service makes it very easy for everyone to have their happiness delivered straight to their doorstep. IR: Why might customers shop at The Good Plant Co over competitors? AS: Because of our background, we have our own nursery. This means we can grow all our own products. We then hand select the best of the best before sending them out to our customers and, because they are all grown by us from seed to sale, we can ensure that we can offer the best quality stock. You’re assured of receiving a happy, healthy, room-ready indoor plant. IR: Can you discuss the customer demographic? AS: To begin with, we did primarily see female customers. However, as we have grown, we really can’t say that anymore. There are more males purchasing indoor plants now, either for themselves or as gifts. Then with our corporate clients, this area has just taken off as well. With regards to beginners vs novice gardeners, again this is very mixed. We have a great mix of customers and appreciate any of their sales no matter the size. IR: Tell me about the seed-to-sale process. Why is this important, and how does this assist with the brand’s sustainability efforts? AS: Our seed-to-sale process is very important – it means we are growing only what we need and what we know our customers want. By following a plant’s journey from seed to sale, we can ensure that we are producing and selling high quality products. By understanding how our products are grown, manufactured and sold, we can identify opportunities to reduce our environmental impact and operate in a more sustainable manner. One sustainable effort we are making is choosing to use recycled and biodegradable packaging in the boxes and materials used to transport your new plant babies. IR: How can plants and gardens improve quality of life and wellbeing for individuals and communities? And how can customers engage in this hobby if they have little green space available? AS: Indoor plants don’t just look good, studies show that by adding life to our homes or offices with greenery, we experience a positive shift in our moods and productivity. Along with that, indoor plants in our spaces will also help clean the air we breathe and may provide privacy against unwanted noise levels or traffic outside your home or office. For people with little green space available, think outside the box. Make vertical gardens, place plants on shelves in kitchens, offices or living spaces, or even have indoor plants on your bedside table or desk. Overall, we think plants make us happier. IR: Can you discuss how Covid-19 affected demand for plants? How did it affect online sales, and do you expect that demand to continue throughout 2023? AS: The recent worldwide pandemic has been both a blessing and a bane to many. It’s given rise to stress-inducing shortages of goods, but it has also created new rituals for people looking into ways they can keep busy during these unprecedented times. Enter indoor plants (and lots of them). Online sales during Covid-19 did increase and we are pleased to continue seeing increases in not only individuals purchasing for themselves but also in people sending plants as personal and corporate gifts. IR: Can you discuss the gifting side of the business? How has that evolved over the years? AS: Sending a plant as a gift is becoming more and more popular. Giving a gift that will continue to grow has sentiment and meaning and this is what people are looking for now. When we think of gifting, we often just think of birthday gifts; however, we see gifts being sent out for so many other occasions. People send housewarming gifts, thank-you gifts, Valentine’s Day gifts, Mother’s and Father’s Day gifts, Christmas and Easter gifts, and condolences gifts, to name a few. Businesses gift indoor plants to new employees, send them to express appreciation to valued clients, or even just to recognise their team’s hard work and say thank you. IR: Can you discuss The Good Plant Co’s plans for the future? AS: As we continue to grow, we are always looking at ways to innovate, no matter if it’s customer related, product related or packaging related. There is always a better way to do things and we strive to look for these and implement them. Eventually, we would like to be able to offer a service to Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania. Mitre 10 Mitre 10. Image supplied Karen Fahey, general manager, marketing Inside Retail: Tell me about Mitre 10’s plants and garden section. Can you discuss the product range, gardening supplies and services on offer? Karen Fahey: The Mitre 10 and Home Hardware Garden Centres are unique in that they are very focused on serving the local gardener. They understand local soils and conditions, and hold strong relationships with local or state-based growers, which gives the consumer the best chance of purchasing a green life product with the optimal chance of success when they get it home. The store has the ability to create a bespoke shopping experience, and we have examples of garden centres that have created ambience through water features, bird life, theming and mature trees. There are over 200 dedicated Garden Centres nationally, and it is very important that we carry all major brands, such as Yates, Cyclone, Husqvarna, Toro, Seasol, Scotts, Osmocote, Richgro, Amgrow, Absco, Searles and more. Some of our larger stores also offer bulk products, or have branched into complementary offers like fountains, landscaping, mature trees, sculptures and disease and pest identification. Mitre 10 and other independent hardware stores, like Home Hardware, True Value and Thrifty Link, are spread across the country and often service even the smallest regional towns. Our range covers all areas of gardening, from starting out and prep, to ongoing maintenance and décor, and we have offerings to cover all sizes of gardens. Services can also vary by store and are based on the needs of the local community. We have a passionate team of gardeners, many of whom have worked in the store for many years and are in tune with their local area and needs. It is a key drawcard for repeat traffic. IR: How significant is Mitre 10’s plants and gardens section compared with the rest of the business, and how does it fit into Mitre 10’s overall business strategy? KF: In the stores that have a significant garden section, it can be as much as 40 per cent of sales. It is a key drawcard for repeat traffic, attached purchases, and the amount of time a customer spends in-store. Garden is a key pillar of our business and we work closely with our members to invest in improvements, upgrades and new Garden Centres. Indoor plants remain a key trend, with double-digit growth over the last few years. Outdoor plants remain strong but stock availability of more advanced products is still a challenge with stocks being depleted during the Covid-19 [affected years]. Seedlings and seeds continue to show significant growth, especially amid cost-of-living pressures and produce supply issues. IR: Can you discuss the demographics that are most interested in Mitre 10’s plants and gardens section? Are there particular areas across Australia where it is most popular? KF: Traditionally, our garden customer base had been skewed toward an older demographic; however, this has been changing over the years, as more people now understand the benefits of gardening, not only for produce but for peace of mind and wellbeing. Covid 19 and lockdowns rejuvenated interest in gardening, indoor plants and home grown vegetables, which extended the demographic into younger apartment dwellers and urban families. Similarly, our rural stores have always had a strong garden presence, but we have seen some strong growth in more urban areas, as shrinking yard sizes have led to people creating balcony and courtyard gardens. Indoor has also heavily contributed to this growth. IR: How has customer demand for plants and gardening supplies changed over the last few years? Did their popularity increase over Covid-affected years? If so, what do you attribute this to, and do you expect this interest to continue? KF: There has been a boom in our garden range as part of Covid-19, and one benefit is that many of our garden products are consumables. People who started or upgraded their gardens during this time have continued to invest in this area, so sales have remained steady and will improve as the weather improves. Our garden range is a cost-effective way to improve the aesthetics of a property, and we have high expectations that its popularity will continue. Community and verge side gardens are now more accepted in urban areas and bring people together socially. Some social groups use community gardens to bring new [immigrants to Australia] together, or breach generational divides. Gardens are great places for people to share their knowledge and broaden the skill base among the wider community. IR: Are customers becoming more educated in caring for their own plants and gardens, or are they reliant on consultation services for plant and garden care? Does Mitre 10 offer online or in-store tools or resources to help customers care for their plants and gardens? KF: There is so much information available that many customers are well educated before coming to our stores. However, on the back of Covid-19, there are also many new gardeners visiting our stores and seeking advice. We have amazing staff who are very knowledgeable, and understand the climate, soil types, new varieties and general growing conditions. We continue to build our resources online, in-house and with our supplier partners to help our customers on their plant and garden journey. IR: How important are B2B sales in this area, and is this something that Mitre 10 will focus on in the future? KF: The large majority of our stores are focused on the end customer, as many wholesale nurseries also have a commercial division that is focused on B2B. We do work with some landscapers but due to the size of many of our stores, it is difficult to provide the full solution they require. We also work with a number of builders and continue discussions around new home builds and opportunities that may exist. IR: What are Mitre 10’s plans for the future in this space? KF: Our plan is to continue our strong focus on the garden area, and to assist our members in creating the best garden offering possible for our consumers. There are still a number of consumers who aren’t aware that we have a strong garden presence in many of our stores, so education and promotion will continue to be part of our future plans. With better access to demographic data, we now rigorously test the suitability of a garden and green life offer in every new store or upgrade that we explore. This story first appeared in the February 2023 issue of Inside Retail Magazine.